One Reason to Be Happy
by Shoshana Clark
B"H (b'ezrat HaShem, with the help of HaShem)
I like Psalm 92.
It is one of my favorites for a number of reasons. First of all, from the opening verses of this psalm comes the name of my daughter, Leila Emunah — Faith at Night.
"Faith at night" is a beautiful thing to contemplate, but it is only an approximate translation of the psalmist's Hebrew. The actual opening verses say: "It is good to thank Hashem and sing praises to your name, Most High. To relate your kindliness in the morning and your faithfulness in the nights."
There is something subtle and disconcerting there, do you see it?
Why does it say kindliness in the morning (singular) and faithfulness in the nights (plural)?
Our sages tell us that it's because what the psalm alludes to here is the one morning of redemption after the many nights of exile. This whole psalm is about the darkness of exile and waiting for redemption, and that the day of redemption will be like the shabbat, the sabbath, a day of joy and rest, peace and knowledge of Hashem.
The words of the psalmist continue to liken the evildoers to grass, who are allowed to bloom only so that they will be destroyed forever...and about this fact: "an empty-headed man cannot know, nor does a fool understand this..." For it is hard to understand why evildoers must bloom before they can be destroyed. Can they not be destroyed while they are still seed? Or young plants? Obviously not. They must bloom and prosper before they can be destroyed — forever. But, more importantly, the righteous will blossom later. They will blossom, they will grow tall, they will be fruitful in old age, they will be full of sap and freshness like...a date palm.
At that time righteousness will flourish like a date palm. Redemption. Justice. Evil will perish, like short-lived grass and justice will reign...how we all yearn for that, every one of us in our own way, don't we?
Now I'd like to switch tracks and tell the story of Elaine Solowey, a horticulturist on Kibbutz Ketura in the southern Negev in Israel. Among her other activities, Elaine Solowey works with Dr. Sarah Sallon, director of the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine research Center at Hadassah Medical Organization, to domesticate indigenous plants that appear to have medicinal uses.
Dr. Sallon procured some ancient date palm seeds that came from an archeological find at Masada. These seeds have since been carbon dated and seem to be 1,990 years old, plus or minus 50 years. That means from 35 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) to 65 CE. C.E. She gave these seeds to Elaine and asked her to try to sprout them, and Elaine did her best. And it was very good.
There now exists on a kibbutz in southern Israel a date palm sprouted from a 2000 year old seed.
And if it continues to grow it just may "be fruitful in old age, full of sap and freshness". Very old age.
Just think about it! It is phenomenal. Not only is this the oldest seed that has ever been sprouted, but it could be the return of the Judean date palm, a tree which was destroyed before the Middle Ages. What we have now in the country was either imported from California or originated elsewhere in the Middle East. The trees of today are not the original trees of this land. The original date palms covered the Jordan valley all the way down to the Dead Sea with a forest 7 miles across and up to 80 feet tall. 80 feet tall!
They were famous throughout the Roman Empire. Commercial export stopped around 70 C.E.. when the Romans destroyed the Second Temple. The tree was so linked with the land, in fact, that the emperor Vespasian celebrated his conquest by minting a special coin, called the "Judea Capta", which depicted the Jewish State as a woman weeping beneath a date palm.
This one tree makes those 2,000 years between the conquest of the country by Rome and the present just seem like a hiccough, as if something was not gone but just latent, like a seed buried deep in the desert waiting for the right moment and the right conditions to start growing again. As if a "pause" button had been momentarily pressed and now released again...
And those date palms ceased to exist nearly two thousand years ago. Or did they?
And the Temple will never stand again. Or will it?
And evil will always prosper, because that is the way of the world. Or will it?
"The righteous will blossom like a date palm...
Planted in the House of Hashem,
in the courtyards of our G-d they will blossom.
They will be fruitful in old age,
they will be full of sap and freshness.
To declare that Hashem is upright;
He is my stronghold;
in Whom there is no injustice."
About the author of this piece
Shoshana Clark, a writer and translator, and the mother of two children, lives in Safed, Israel. American-born, she traveled widely, lived in Germany for 13 years, and made aliyah to Israel (aliyah, came up to Israel) in 2001. She became Torah-observant. She often thinks of herself today as a sort of "cultural diplomat" between Torah-observant Jews and other groups and cultures. She's particularly interested in spreading knowledge of the Noachide Laws in the world — because they are, in her words, "the essence of the spiritual unity that so many people seek so desperately, of true spirituality without any taint of idolatry or pressure to abandon the One Creator." Shoshana Clark became personally acquainted with Elaine Solowey because of their mutual interest in herbal medicine and horticulture.